Snakes of GA and SC Brochure
Non-Venomous Snakes

Non-venomous snakes are generally harmless and include species such as kingsnakes, water snakes, and rat snakes.

Information on a few representative species is presented below.

Eastern/Black Kingsnake
Lampropeltis getula
Common. Kingsnakes occur in a wide variety of habitats. Although this species is considered terrestrial, it often is found in the vicinity of permanent or temporary aquatic areas. Adults often reach lengths of 3 to 4 ft. Eastern kingsnakes are black with light yellow or whitish crossbands whereas the black kingsnake, found in northwestern Georgia, is shiny black with scattered flecks of yellow. The belly is a combination of black and yellow. This kingsnake feeds on snakes (including venomous species), lizards, rodents, birds, and eggs--even eggs scavenged from turtle nests. Experiments with kingsnakes have demonstrated that they are immune to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads. E. kingsnake range map
eastern/black kingsnake
corn snake
Corn Snake
Elaphe guttata
Common. Corn snakes generally are associated with woodland habitats, including pine and hardwood areas. The usual adult length is 3 to 4 ft. The color pattern on the back consists of red or orange blotches; the “piano-keyboard” belly is light with black squares. Corn snakes feed on small mammals and birds. Like other rat snakes, corn snakes are constrictors that can easily subdue mice and small rats. They are excellent climbers and are able to crawl up walls or tree trunks. corn snake range map
Southern Hognose Snake
Heterodon simus
S. hognose snake
Rare. This species is found in habitats similar to those of the eastern hognose. Seldom more than 1.5 ft. long, southern hognose snakes are light brown with darker blotches. In contrast to the variability in color of the eastern hognose, the southern hognose always has the same color pattern. This species eats mostly toads, and occasionally frogs and lizards. Herpetologists fear for the future of this species because it has become very rare in some areas of its historical range. S. hognose range map
Brown Water Snake
Nerodia taxispilota
brown water snake
Locally abundant. This species is associated with stream, river, and swamp environments. It often attains a length of 4 ft. and is light brown on top with darker squares on the back and sides. The brown water snake is one of the most common snakes along rivers and streams within its geographic range and often is mistaken for the venomous cottonmouth. This snake frequently basks on tree limbs that overhang the water and it is not uncommon to see them at heights of 10 ft. or more. Brown water snakes feed almost exclusively on fish, especially catfish. brown water snake range map
Common Garter Snake
Thamnophis sirtalis
common garter snake
Uncommon to common. Common garter snakes are found in a diversity of habitats that are usually wet or damp, although not necessarily near permanently aquatic areas. They usually are less than 2 ft. long but occasionally reach lengths greater than 3 ft. Garter snakes are distinguished from all other South Carolina species except ribbon snakes by the presence of three yellow longitudinal stripes on a dark body. Garter snakes have black lines on their lip scales, whereas ribbon snakes do not. Although this pattern is common, some garter snakes in South Carolina and Georgia have a checkered body pattern with poorly defined stripes and a grayish body color. The belly of garter snakes is white or light yellow. This species gives birth to live young, sometimes having more than 50 babies. Garter snakes feed on frogs, toads, salamanders, fish, and tadpoles. garter snake range map
Rat Snake
black rat snake
Elaphe obsoleta
Common. Rat snakes are found in a wide variety of habitats, but are most common in wooded or swampy areas. Adults frequently attain lengths of more than 4 ft. Coastal forms are olive with 4 dark stripes on the back; inland specimens range from black to light gray or brown with darker blotches and rat snake range map
have a light belly with dark blotches. They feed on birds and their eggs as well as rodents, such as rats, mice, and squirrels. Known as the “chicken snake” in farming areas because they will readily eat chicks and chicken eggs, rat snakes also enter barns in search of mice and rats. Like corn snakes, they are very good climbers.
Black rat snake (top); gray rat snake (right)
gray rat snake
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all photos by David E. Scott, SREL